P19M supplies gathering dust-A A +A
Thursday, March 21, 2013
ABOUT P19 million worth of supplies that were supposed to be given to Cebu’s schoolchildren last June 2012 remain undistributed in a Capitol stockroom.
In an audit observation memorandum, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the purchase of these items “violated the procurement process.”
“Our inspection of the items disclosed that the school kits bore the names and images of the elective officials of the Provincial Government,” said a memorandum dated March 7, 2013, prepared by audit team leader Atty. Eva Cabrera and Atty. Charlita Leopoldo.
They invoked a Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) memorandum that bans the inclusion of names and images of government officials in billboards and government properties. The practice, they added, also violates COA circular 2012-003.
Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale said she prefers to distribute the school supplies before
the new school year begins in June, but after the elections on May 13.
Most of the notebooks, pens, pencils, school bags, teachers’ class record books and lesson plan notebooks were purchased in February 2012, and were supposed to be distributed in June 2012. Some were purchased in 2011 yet.
Magpale said the Capitol cannot distribute these now, since there will be Commission on Elections (Comelec) prohibitions when the local campaign period starts on March 29.
One of the notebooks purchased in 2011 has the picture of the governor and her name on the front cover. On the back is a photograph of Garcia along with Vice Governor Greg Sanchez and the faces of the 15 Provincial Board members, including Magpale.
Governor Garcia, in a separate interview, said the COA appears to have mixed up the rules on the procurement process and the DILG memo on the use of public officials’ images.
She also asked why COA raised the issue only now and not in 2011. And since the faces of all other Capitol officials are also printed in the notebooks, why, the suspended governor asked, is she being singled out?
“Ang bawal karon dili bawal kaniadto? (What’s prohibited now wasn’t prohibited before?),” Garcia said, pointing out that the DILG memo was issued in 2010 yet.
She said the notebooks are educational because the pictures are there to inform the children who their local government officials are. Garcia also explained the kits were not distributed in time for the school opening because the supplier failed to deliver them on time.
“Among gipabayad og liquidated damages ang supplier (The Province has asked the supplier to pay damages),” Garcia said.
For her part, Magpale said she did not know that there were school supplies that were not distributed and still waiting in the Capitol’s warehouse as of Oct. 31, 2012.
These were estimated to be worth P18,875,487.
Magpale assumed as the acting governor last Dec. 19, when the six-month suspension of Governor Garcia began on orders of the Office of the President and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Remember, there was no proper turnover so I am not liable,” Magpale said. Governor Garcia was not in her office when the DILG left a copy of the suspension order on her door.
She has since asked the Court of Appeals to invalidate the suspension order, which resulted from a case filed by the late vice governor Greg Sanchez in 2010. Sanchez died before the case was resolved.
“When I took over on Dec. 19, I had no idea that our warehouse has P18 million worth of school supplies. Bag-o lang namo nadiskubrehan (We recently discovered it),” Magpale said.
She cited DILG Memorandum Circular 2010-101, which prohibits using the names, initials, images and pictures of government officials on billboards and signs of government programs, projects and properties.
Magpale said she also wrote the Commission on Audit (COA) and asked if the latter would allow the Provincial Government to pay the supplier of the medals that carry the embossed image of Governor Garcia.
She clarified it was COA that questioned the printing of the pictures of government officials on the notebooks the Capitol purchased.
“Applying the warnings of COA, I am now cautious about paying for the medals,” she said. A supplier is trying to collect P520,000 for the medals, which cost around P200 each.
As far as the school supplies are concerned, the auditors asked Magpale, who received the memo last March 13, to comment on the observation within five days upon receipt.
Eva Encabo, Provincial General Services Office (PGSO) chief, wrote Atty. Cabrera last March 18 to say that she already forwarded COA’s letter to the former bids and awards committee (BAC) chairperson, Marivic Garces, for her comment.
COA’s audit observation revealed that the Province procured bags from two winning bidders: Crismark General Merchandize for the bags and Prince Warehouse Club, Inc. for the notebooks, pencils, paper, erasers, rulers, class records and lesson plans.
As of Oct. 31, 2012, 71 percent of the total number of kits for the two contracts, with an equivalent value of P18.87 million, remained undelivered.
Another set of school items worth P483,371 bought in 2011 remained in the stockroom, bringing the total value of the undistributed school supplies to P19,358,859.
“The procurement was in violation of DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010-101 and COA Circular No. 2012-003, hence, there is a probability that the school items cannot be distributed at all, causing pecuniary loss to the government,” the COA stated.
Under the COA circular, “a transaction that fails to follow or violates appropriate rules of procedure is irregular.”
“Unless these images printed on the kits are removed, these cannot be distributed to the end-users,” the report stated.
Garcia, however, pointed out that under Republic Act 9184, which modernized and regulated the procurement activities of the government, there is “nothing that prohibits the putting of names and images” on government-acquired supplies.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 21, 2013.